One of my favorite Christmas stories did not begin as a Christmas story but as a tale written by the Brothers Grimm, "The Fisherman and His Wife."
The poor couple lived in a filthy shack. One day, the fisherman caught only one fish, but it was a special flounder. The flounder explained it really was an enchanted prince and asked to be placed back in the ocean. The fisherman complied. He returned home and told his wife about the fish, initiating a cycle of unbridled greed.
The wife told the fisherman he should have asked for something and she sent him back to ask for a cottage. The fisherman did not want to go, but his wife was insistent, so he did her bidding.
The flounder asked what the wife wanted, and the fisherman described her desire for a cottage. The flounder told the fisherman to go home; his wife already had the cottage she requested. The fisherman returned to a new cottage and suggested his wife should be happy now, but she was not.
Soon, she sent her husband back to ask for a stone mansion. Next, she wanted to be king. After this, she insisted on becoming emperor, then pope. The flounder kept granting the wife's greedy wishes, and her power and prestige multiplied.
Then she sent her husband to tell the flounder to make her like God. Quaking with fear, the fisherman did as he was told. After he made the request, the flounder told the fisherman to go back home, where he would find his wife in the filthy shack, just as she began. The story ends by stating the couple dwells in that shack to this very day.
Many interpret the step back to the shack as a punishment upon the wife's greed. I disagree. The flounder merely gave the wife what she sought.The willful wife wanted to be like God. So the fish took her from a position of glory to a dirty shack--sort of like how Jesus left the glory of heaven for a dirty stable in Bethlehem.
The fisherman's wife was closer to God's revelation of himself in this world when she was in the shack than when she held positions of power and glory. The story of the fisherman and his wife and the story of Jesus show us that becoming like God in this world has nothing to do with worldly notions of glory.
In this Christmas season, let us ponder what it really means to become more godly. Let us ponder what it means to become like God in this world by pondering the lowly way God became flesh.